Lucky me — I got to compare the list of after-school kids with the list of school kids at work today. The woman who handed me this task looked at me apologetically. It’s hard to convince people that I don’t mind brainless routines which involve lists — same reason I’ve enjoyed doing menus for Nat. (The latest hits from the CACFP menus: Royal Lunch Crackers, been green, brand muffins, cereal hot creamy wheat, colid greens, hamburger bread, tomatoes souso, 2% white.)
Here is why I found this task so appealing. The following is an unordered list of first names of parents and kids at the school where I work (I would have loved to include last names, as some of the combinations are fantastic, but I didn’t want to spread people’s names all over the web, especially kids):
And finally, four nifty last names — Statuto, Escolastico, Monroig, and Toxqui — and one unfortunate one: Bastardo.
Here’s a bit of a key to what you just read: Most of the names are women’s names; men don’t get blessed such fancy confections at baptism around here. Anything ending in -a, -ys, -is, -yn, -ly, or -ry is likely to be a female name, whereas -o names are male. Names beginning in Y are mostly pronounced with a J sound, so you’re hearing kids call out for Jeli or Jurby, not Yeli or Yurby. Some of these names are more common than others: I have met more than one Ovelis, and know of a few Grisels, but I have never seen the names Heclyn or Mailenis before. Very little nicknaming by way of abbreviation seems to happen. All syllables of Alenairan’s name are brought out, which can make for a dramatic effect.
This list shows a bias on my part: Almost all of the names here had Hispanic surnames. I put almost no Indian, African, or Middle Eastern names on this list, though there were a few. They didn’t catch me quite the same way. I don’t know Hindi or Swahili, so I can’t see the semantic primitives moving like bones under the sleek pelts of the names.* I admit I am also not as rapt when it comes to the La-, Ta-, Sha-, and -ay creations which are picked by long-established African American communities, though I still prefer their creativity to communities where it’s OK to call a boy George because his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and on back had the same name.
It is the abundance of resources drawn upon by the namers in this community — I guess I am focusing on Puerto Ricans and Dominicans here — which amazes me. We see exploration of the atlas (Indiana, Australia, Finlandia, Albany), unplumbed possibilities of religion (Anima, Sol Maria, Virgen, Ambrosina, Edicta), history (Lenin), and literature (Fausto, Nereida). Old-time names which white people buried with their grandparents (Efigenia, Alpha, Famuel — there were a number of mothers named Gladys) are still in circulation, and names from other cultures (Vladimir, Luighy, Lennix) are welcome. Neglected letters like X and Z are worn like medals.
The names of people I meet in the Bronx are a neverending delight. It’s like we’re in our best clothes all the time. The kids accepted my being a Gillian without any trouble, unlike my own elementary school, where my name was butchered by a playgroundful of Jennifers and Matthews. My students have made a mess of my last name, though. They call me Andrews or MizAndrew mostly, but one or two have decided I am Miss Angeles (that crown I’d never win back home!) and that has devolved into Miss Angel, despite the fact that they often claim to hate me.
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I have another piece to post later, if I can find it — something from the archives, explaining why I am apprehensive about February. but I have spent hours on this and neglected my Harper’s application yet again. plus I need to go to the Edels’. booga.